Monday, March 13, 2006

Cultural Environmentalism at 10: Introduction

I spent the weekend at the Cultural Environmentalism at 10 conference. It was wonderful.

Larry Lessig introduced the conference: Ten years ago saw developments that we thought would be foundational – John Perry Barlow’s statement, the Communications Decency Act, the 1996 Telecom Act – which are now irrelevant, and Boyle’s book, which is still foundational, helping shape the politics of IP. This conference celebrates the beginning of a movement that continues today. Questions: how shall we architect IP? How should we think about the disciplines within which we approach IP?

James Boyle: liveblogged by Joe Gratz.

A couple of things I wrote down, expanding on Joe's account: Boyle says that he came up with a metaphor that described well what others were doing. Getting credit is like wrapping other people’s presents and getting called Santa. (Here he’s engaging in the practice of disclaiming credit appropriate to academia!)

The environmental metaphor was about making visible the invisible, about linking communities of interest, so that they saw common roots of their struggles in concepts of private property that ignored externalities and scientific theories that assumed we could tamper with a species or place with impunity. The political movement had to be connected to academic themes about complicated ecological connections, externalities, and humility about intervention. The environmental movement succeeded in making these ideas accessible to high school students.

In terms of scholarly aims: There’s more history to be done, such as how the philosophical differences between droit d’auteur and common law countries have successfully been submerged at the international level.

Perfect price discrimination – selling the same work for ¼ rupee to a poor Indian and $1000 to a Park Avenue socialite – is attractive to elite policymakers but will never survive in politics. Too many people think it’s not fair.

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